How I got a € 90k+ job (TC) in Germany as a self-taught web developer with 1.5 years of experience.
Firstly, I would like to preface this by saying that a salary like this is chump change for any of you working in USA. However, for Germany, a 90k TC (total compensation) for someone with my YOE (years of experience) is quite high. Attribute it to European Socialism (not really socialism, just an extremely progressive version of capitalism) or whatever you want to call it but that’s the reality.
Like many of us in the industry I too am a self taught programmer and I thought this would not be an issue in getting a high paid job, however I often noticed that there were a few hurdles in my way. This is how I overcame them:
1. Refactored my CV to highlight my strengths
At first I was rejected by companies just because I did not have a degree in Computer Science (I had a primarily Business degree). Till I finally learnt how to bypass this issue:
- Instead of hiding it I advertised my lack of a CS degree and highlighted my passion. In the first section of my CV, I mentioned that I was a self-taught developer and I taught myself the MERN stack (a very popular stack for full-stack web development). I obviously had to create several projects to corroborate this claim, which I added to my CV as well as my website: http://angsin.co.uk.
- I mentioned the only two programming modules I had in my degree “Java Programming I” and “Java Programming II”, my grades in them: 84 & 96 respectively and did not mention any of the other modules like Marketing, Management Fundamentals and Accounting. Even though I had good grades in other modules I did not want to be seen as a “business” person. I was lucky enough to have 2 programming modules in my degree and I understand not everyone will have this, but as someone who later interviewed other candidates and hired for the firms he worked in, I can confirm that mentioning courses from Udemy or any other website also has some worthiness.
- I had a Business degree from UCL which was ranked 7th in the world (QS rankings) when I graduated (2017). I played this to my advantage by stating its rank. Employers in the UK were aware of UCL but most companies outside the UK did not know about this. This obviously works for any other “prestigious” universities (even though it is often just hype).
2. Overcompensated on the coding challenge
- I applied to smaller companies initially both to gain experience (even 6 to 12 months is better than nothing) and because I knew that their recruiting process was more heavily involving a coding challenge rather than pure Data Structure questions, which at that time like most other self taught programmers, I had limited knowledge of.
- Since I knew that there would be things that a traditional Computer Scientist would have above me I maxed out the coding challenges that the companies gave me. Also I had more knowledge of the practical tools like React.js, Redux and Node.js compared to a freshly graduate computer science student because of all the projects I had worked on simply out of personal interest. So I took advantage of this and sacrificed a lot of my sleep over the coding challenges these companies gave me, showed them my mettle and far exceeded their expectations.
3. Filled the gaps in my knowledge
After gaining some experience and applying for a second job, it was inevitable to face the demons I was ignoring “Data Structures and Algorithms”. Unfortunately there is no shortcut for this. Just the regular steps:
- The book, “Cracking the coding interview”, which you can find through my Amazon Affiliate Link: https://amzn.to/2A0c7pp.
It is common to fail at a few of these interviews before you get the hang of it and also learn how to control your nerves during the white-boarding sessions.
The technology sector is growing and is growing fast. Too fast for the total supply of Computer Science graduates to meet this demand. So if you have a degree in some other subject and yet would still like to get into the field you are lucky that the demand for these jobs is so high that you can still make it, and with some long nights of coding with coffee, you can make it in the industry with a considerably higher pay than the CS graduates. A reason for this I think is that a lot of these CS graduates are not learning up-to-date skills in University that are being sought right now by employers, particularly modern web frameworks.
Although this route may seem daunting at first, I was surprised to see how quick my career progressed, as opposed to spending a few years at university learning Computer Science or even going on a coding bootcamp.